Seeds of the Mission: Ashantis Jones

We Form Each Other 

In his keynote address to the Vincentian Family Gathering in 2005, Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM said, “We form each other.” It is through meaningful relationship and story sharing that we become the people the world needs us to be.  

The core of Vincent and Louise’s work was formation – preparing those in their communities to be ready to serve. It started with seeing the potential and gifts of each person they encountered – whether rich or poor. Through encouragement and skill building, Vincent and Louise equipped each individual with the physical and spiritual tools needed to go forth and serve those most in needThey cultivated communities and spaces for all to grow together.  

 Margaret Kelly, D.C. describes Louise’s empowering work 

When she established the Daughters of Charity in her own home in 1633, she demonstrated great realism as well as vision as she developed instructional programs and motivated these young women to develop their abilities... 

The variety of works the Daughters engaged in (education, care of children, home visiting, nursing, care of the elderly) provided a broad range of options, and Louise set up specific training programs for each of the fields and mandated that preparation always precede service. [1] 

The opportunity for growth wasn’t limited just to those who were serving, but also those being served. For example, in the residential care programs for children Kelly explains, “educational programs for children five years of age and older were developed in sewing, reading, writing, knitting, lacemaking and even baking. The goal of preparation for life and a livelihood dictated all programs for the children.” [2] 

Our mission at DePaul university is rooted in this same approach of preparing our students to go forth and use their gifts to transform our world. A Catholic, Vincentian education focuses not only on minds, but on the whole person, including the formation of hearts and spirits. At DePaul, we urge faculty and staff to learn from their students each day. Together we help each other become the best versions of ourselves!  

[1] Kelly, Margaret J. D.C. (1989) “Louise de Marillac: The “Gentle Power” of Liberation,” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 10 : Iss1 , Article 2. Available at: 

[2] ibid. 

Seeds of the Mission: Susana Martinez


The Vincentian mission starts not from a place of theory, but instead out in the world. After taking time to listen, learn, and understand the stories of people in our communities, we then return to make meaning. We call this approach, “Go, then.” The Vincentian mission calls us to go into the world, to serve and accompany those who are most marginalized. Then, we begin to ask questions of systemic change. When they co-founded the Daughters of Charity, Louise and Vincent realized the need for the Daughters to be out in the streets, in direct contact with those they were serving. Vincent advised that Daughters of Charity have to go everywhere… for chapel, the parish church; for cloister, the streets of the city.” [1] They put the lives of those on the margins at the center of their work 

Direct relationship, care, and interconnectedness are central to the Vincentian charism. We see our community as co-educators and do not assume that we have all the answers. We trust that each person is the expert in their own lived experience. We encourage students involved in community service to listen deeply to the stories of those on the margins and allow those stories to shape their understanding of the world. Wstrive to form mutual relationships with a sense of humility that allows us to be served and taught in return. At DePaul, this holds true especially in our commitment to the city of Chicago. We strive to create opportunities for students to connect to this city and its people in meaningful, transformative ways. 

[1] #111, Rules for the Sisters in Parishes, CCD, 10:530. 

Seeds of the Mission: Brenda Chavez

Dignity and Relationship 

As Vincentians, we know that learning a person’s name and understanding their story is the first step toward systemic change. Relationship is at the heart of how we exist in the world. Vincentians strive to foster mutual, long term relationships with those in their communities, not for the sake of metrics or numbers, but rather for the sake of solidarity. Throughout our history, the Vincentian family has strived to keep each individual person at the center of their work.   

When Frederic Ozanam founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, he took inspiration from Rosalie Rendu and the Daughters of Charity, who went beyond providing acts of service and prioritized home visits. When members of the Society visit a person’s home, they sit with them, learn their name, engage in dialogue, and allow themselves to be formed and shaped by their story. For Vincentians, charity is not a series of standalone actions; it is love in action. It is the belief that through relationship, inventive change is possible. 


Homelessness: A Vincentian Concern

Responding to homelessness has always been central to the Vincentian mission. St Vincent de Paul led and inspired work with homeless children, refugees and other displaced people, and those living on the streets. The global Vincentian family continues this work in more than 150 countries. To mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of the charism, the Vincentian family launched the FamVin Homeless Alliance and decided to commit to an intensified program for five years. This global initiative is a project to end homelessness throughout the world.  

Alongside the preparation and delivery of practical projects to reduce homelessness in local situations, attention is also given to work for wider structural changeTogether, the Vincentian Family and the Institute for Global Homelessness are partnering to create a powerful advocacy effort within the United Nations that will catalyze global momentum into concrete action that will reduce homelessness around the world. 

Institute for Global Homelessness at DePaul University 

In these times of social distance, the global movement to end homelessness is growing even stronger and more connected. Webinars, conference calls, online resources, and email lists abound as we learn from each other how to best handle the “new normal.” Continuously expanding our knowledge about global homelessness is essential. However, knowing the facts is not enough. The knowledge must prompt action.  

Founded in 2014, DePaul University’s Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) leads global action to end street homelessness. DePaul’s Grounded in Mission: The plan for DePaul 2024 names street homelessness in strategic priority 1.2.C — “provide thought leadership in addressing pressing issues of social and environmental justice, including global efforts to eradicate street homelessness” and priority 1.2.E urges the university to “better coordinate and advance our mission-based community outreach efforts at the local, national, and international levels.” To support those goals, IGH uses three signature strategies of “see it, solve it, share it” to achieve its mission to eradicate global homelessness. 

To “see it,” IGH advocates for international homelessness policy by promoting a shared definition of global homelessness and urging measurement. IGH is well respected as a global expert on homelessness within the United Nations (UN), serving as “key strategic partner” of the UN NGO Working Group to End Homelessness (previously chaired by Fr. Memo Campuzano, now DePaul’s Vice President of Mission and Ministry. In February 2020, the UN Commission on Social Development issued the first resolution on homelessness in more than thirty years, creating a strong lever for further advocacy and international policy. 

To “solve it,” our A Place to Call Home initiative works in deep collaboration with a cohort of cities to reduce their street homelessness. A local leadership team is established, and IGH experts visit each city to assess and recommend strategies; help set specific goals, establish implementation plans and track progress. 

To “share it,” IGH regularly hosts conferences, summits, leadership programs, and an online resource center called the IGH Hub to promote what works in ending street homelessness around the world. We recently launched an online Community of Impact as a collaborative and dynamic global network of knowledge. In all our sharing, we embed learning around homelessness, health, diversity and inclusion, and anti-racism principles.  

All of our actions and activities are rooted in our great responsibility and duty every day to listen, learn from, and witness people experiencing homelessness, and all other forms of marginalization and injustice which often lead to homelessness, and follow their lead in creating solutions for a world that honors their humanity and dignity. We believe that everyone deserves a home that offers safety, security, autonomy, and opportunity and we work in partnership every day to bring that belief closer to reality.  

Learn more about how you can help IGH end global homelessness. 

Seeds of the Mission: Luciano Berardi and Terry Vaughan III

DePaul University: Education to Break the Generational Cycle of Poverty 

Since our founding, the Vincentian family has used education to open doors of access to marginalized communities. Although we often tell the stories of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac as social workers, we know that they were also educators. Sr. Louise Sullivan, D.C. writes that Vincent and Louise were “teachers and as such were keenly aware of the vital place of education in a holistic approach to service of the poor.” [1] 

Sullivan writes that education was a central piece of Louise’s ministry. She established schools for young girls who lived in poor, rural communities and played a substantial role in overcoming illiteracy among women in France. These forms of educational outreach, Sullivan notes, “were not isolated but rather a natural outgrowth of a broader service of the poor from which they cannot be dissociated.” [2] 

Vincent and Louise’s value in education undoubtedly informed the founding of DePaul University. During the late nineteenth century, many colleges and universities in Chicago did not serve immigrant communities. In 1898, the Vincentian priests, also known as the Congregation of the Mission, responded to this need by opening St. Vincent’s College, which served immigrants and their children. The Vincentians saw education as a way to disrupt the cycle of generational poverty. 

Thirteen years after its founding, DePaul became one of the first Catholic universities in the country to admit women. In the century that followed, DePaul heard and responded to the needs of Jewish applicants, communities of color, low-income working communities, and first-generation students. Providing opportunities for higher education to those who are excluded is one way we choose to live out our Catholic heritage. 

DePaul remains committed to its founding mission, to provide a quality education to those who have been marginalized and excluded from higher learning. We believe that education not only has the power to transform minds, but that it also equips individuals with the tools to transform their communities.  

Read the article that Terry Vaughn III wrote to accompany this interview:

DePaul’s CAA Pathway: Our Commitment to First-Generation, Low Income, and Underrepresented Students

[1] Sullivan, Louise D.C. (1995) “The Core Values of Vincentian Education,” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 16 : Iss. 2 , Article 3. 

[2] ibid. 

Seeds of the Mission: Ken Butigan

Vincent DePaul: A life committed to Justice and Peace   

“Justice and Peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10)  

Vincent lived in complex historical times. In addition to addressing the poverty and inequality he saw throughout France, he also lived through a pandemic and spoke out adamantly against war. There was not a day in Vincent’s life when his country was at peace. This reality called him to become a peacemaker.   

Fr. Robert Maloney, CM, former Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, writes of Vincent’s commitment to nonviolence in an article titled, “A Vincentian Reflection of Peace.” In the article, he shares the following stories.  

…in addition to his vigorous war-relief efforts, Vincent was also engaged in behind-the-scenes peacemaking. On two occasions he intervened personally, going right to the top… At some time between 1639 and 1642, during the wars in Lorraine, he went to Cardinal Richelieu, knelt before him, described the horrors of war, and pleaded for peace: “Let us have peace.  Have pity on us.  Give France peace.”  Richelieu refused, responding diplomatically that peace did not depend on him alone. […] In 1649, during the civil war, St. Vincent left Paris quietly, crossed battle lines and forded a flooded river (at almost 70 years of age) to see the queen and to beg her to dismiss Mazarin, whom he regarded as responsible for the war.  He also spoke directly to Mazarin himself.  But again his pleas went unheeded. [1] 

Vincent’s commitment to peacemaking is clear in the Vincentian virtue of meekness. Not to be mistaken for weakness, meekness refers to the intersection of gentleness and strength. It is about approachability, the ability to express righteous anger in constructive, productive ways. Meekness is an active expression of nonviolence, one that confronts injustice without inflicting more harm. It comes from an internal sense of peace.   

The call to nonviolence at DePaul also has roots in our Catholic identity. Pope Francis writes, “The Church is called to commit itself to the solution of problems concerning peace, harmony, the environment, the defense of life, and human and civil rights.” [2] He specifies, “the university world has a central role to play as the symbolic place of the integral humanism that continually needs to be renewed and enriched.” [3] 

At DePaul University, we know that justice leads to sustainable peace, a peace that takes courage, strength, and depth. We are committed to living out the Catholic, Vincentian value of nonviolence by equipping students with the toolbox to become effective agents of change in our world.  


Listen to the audio version of Ken’s interview on Nonviolence.

[1] Maloney, Robert P. C.M. (2004) “A Vincentian Reflection on Peace,” 
Vincentiana: Vol. 48 : No. 2 , Article 11. Pg. 118. Available at:  

[2] Bonanata, E. and Gomes, R. (2020, September 18) Pope Francis on training the next generation to be peacemakers. 

[3] ibid  




Seeds of the Mission: Heartbeat Hello

Radical Creativity, Connection and Care

“Love is inventive to infinity.” – Vincent de Paul  

Vincentians, at their core, are trailblazers. When Vincent saw that people were eager to serve their neighbors but lacked the structure to do so, he organized charity in a new way that brought effectiveness to people’s care. When faced with a patriarchal system that limited women’s roles in society, Louise created the first order of non-cloistered Catholic sisters to be out in the world. In the face of poverty, conflict, and civil unrest, Frederic founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which allowed lay Catholics to be active in their faith in new ways.    

Radical creativity is at the heart of the Vincentian mission. It is a way we honor human dignity. In times of crisis, we listen deeply to the needs of our communities and respond with compassionate innovation. We believe there is a power in seeing another person, knowing the burdens they carry, recognizing their ever-changing needs. Relationship and human connection are essential to how Vincentians exist and make meaning.  We live dignity through recognition and care of the human person.  

These creative ethics of care apply to our own internal needs, as well. As Vincentians, we know that in order to foster meaningful relationships with others and tend to the world’s needs, we must take time to pause for contemplation and meaning making. In our current times, practices of internal care likely look different than they have in the past. Just as our heritage figures in times before us, we are called to find new, sustainable ways to care for ourselves and our communities.   

Seeds of the Mission: Jenan Mohajir

Respect, Dignity and Interfaith Dialogue   

Vincent DePaul lived at a time when religious tension and conflict was a regular feature of life, both within Christianity and between Christians and people of other faiths.  The spirituality Saint Vincent embraced, while enthusiastically faithful to the Catholic church, was one which emphasized humility, gentleness and pragmatic service to the poor over contentious debate.  The spirituality of the order Vincent founded, the Congregation of the Mission, has created a living tradition which is rooted in its history but is always looking to respond to the real needs of the marginalized in each new time and place, continuously asking the question, “What must be done?” 

It is this Vincentian spirit which led DePaul to be the first Catholic university chartered in Illinois to specify in its charter that there would be no religious test or requirement for admission or for hiring.  That is, from its beginning DePaul University has believed that welcoming students, faculty, and staff of all faiths or none to the opportunities of higher education and to form a community together was to be faithful to its Vincentian Catholic commitment to honoring the dignity of every human person. 

DePaul continues this commitment to the dignity and spiritual care and growth of all members of the community with Mission & Ministry staff members who are Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and of no faith tradition.  DePaul fosters interfaith dialogue on campus through the framework of the Four Forms of Interreligious Dialogue outlined by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  This framework emphasizes that we live in a community which is consistently marked by people with a wide diversity of faiths and worldviews who are interacting, cooperating and working together for a better world.  These forms include the dialogues of service, religious experience, and of life itself in addition to the narrow category which we often think of as “interfaith dialogue,” the dialogue of theological exchange. 

It is with this history and this understanding that we, as a community made up of people of many different faiths and of none, that we embrace our continuing commitment to the Vincentian Catholic Mission of DePaul University and seek to respond to the continuing human challenges of a world that stands in need of so much.   

Seeds of the Mission: Tyneka Harris Coronado

Vincentian Personalism 

Coined at DePaul in the 1970s, the term Vincentian Personalism refers to the Vincentian family’s dedication to human dignity and holistic care. St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac approached their work with a person-first lens. They saw each person they encountered, whether rich or poor, as God’s beloved creation. This was evident in their commitment to care for both the physical and spiritual needs of those on the margins.  

Vie Thorgren, a Vincentian leader in Denver, Colorado, says, “There is no such thing in the Vincentian family as someone who does not belong.” To Vincent and Louise, nobody was invisible. They recognized the worth and gifts in each person they encountered and sought to create a sense of belonging for those who were often forgotten or excluded from the narrative.  

In this sense, we strive to foster a sense of belonging at DePaul. We hope that every student, staff, and faculty member who is part of the DePaul community feels seen for their whole personhood. A DePaul education goes beyond intellectual development and seeks to cultivate holistic growth. We hope that each student who graduates from DePaul understands their larger sense of purpose in the world beyond their resume, degree, or job title. We are spiritual as well as academic, personal as well as professional. 

Servant Leadership 

In 1977, Robert K. Greenleaf wrote, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.(1) This book invited readers to turn their understanding of leadership on its head and imagine an effective leader as someone who approaches their work with humility and selflessness rather than emphasizing power. Greenleaf’s research articulated foundational qualities of leadership similar to those with which Vincent approached his work. Some of these qualities include the following questions: 

  • Do those served grow as persons?  
  • Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  
  • What is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?(2) 

Servant leadership is rooted in active listening. For the Vincentian family, this means building relationships with a community, hearing their stories, and understanding their needs before taking action. As Vincentians, we do not seek to “fix” but rather to be in solidarity. This requires asking the questions, “What do you need? How can I be of service?” before taking action. It is a way of rejecting the false sense of savior-ism and seeking instead mutual, meaningful relationships. 

In the article, “Servant Leadership in the Manner of St. Vincent de Paul,” J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., writes, “Vincent came to servant leadership through prayer and scripture. He was inspired, for instance, by the passage from Luke: Earthly kings lord it over their people. Those who exercise authority over them are called their benefactors. Yet it cannot be that way with you. Let the greater among you be as the junior, the leader as servant.”(3) 

Servant Leadership seeks to dismantle inequitable power structures and place people on even ground. Murphy goes on to write, “Vincent turned the church upside down (we truly can think of it as an inverted pyramid) to put the poor on top with the rest of (society) in service and support.”(4) We see this lived out in the structure of the Daughters of Charity. Instead of being called Superior Generals, as many leaders are called in Catholic faith communities, the Daughters refer to their community leaders as Sister Servants.  

Servant Leadership is inseparable from Vincentian Personalism; both are bound up in the way Vincentians see and treat people. A Vincentian leader is concerned not with authority but with the wellbeing and dignity of those in their care. 


1) Robert K. GreenleafServant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), 335 pp. 

2) J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., “Servant Leadership in the Manner of Saint Vincent de Paul,” Vincentian Heritage 19:1 (1998), p. 122. See:  

3) Ibid., 123. 

4) Ibid., 124. 

Seeds of the Mission, an Introduction

On behalf of the Division of Mission and Ministry and DePaul University we are excited to share the Seeds of the Mission Campaign stories. We are grateful to the students, faculty, staff and alumni who have graciously taken the time to share their mission-in-action stories. Gathering Seeds of the Mission stories is the first step to reviewing and possibly revising the University mission statement. Listening to and amplifying Seeds of the Mission stories helps us to understand who we have been, and who we are now, so that we may transform into who we are called to be in the twenty-first century. We invite you to watch these stories and to continue to reflect upon the living mission at DePaulAs a next step, this Fall we will be conducting dialogues to move towards the reviewing and possible revising of the University mission statement. 

Review of The Mission Statement

The Division of Mission and Ministry has been charged with leading the process of gathering the necessary information, data and input from the university community to assist the Board of Trustees with this process.

A multi-step process is been implemented during this academic year, involving:

  1. A review of the history of DePaul’s mission statement and other related documents that describe the self-understanding of DePaul’s sense of purpose and vision and how it has evolved over the course of its history.
  2. The Seeds of the Mission Campaign will seek to identify current-day examples of DePaul’s mission-in-practice across the university.
  3. A series of dialogue sessions with a wide and diverse range of the DePaul community of faculty, staff, students and alumni to invite their qualitative input on what is essential to DePaul’s mission.
  4. Board of Trustees Survey

The information, data, and input from these 3 steps will be synthesized and presented to the Board of Trustees Mission Committee in the Winter of 2021 for consideration. This committee will then be responsible for presenting their findings and recommendations to the full Board of Trustees by the spring of 2021.